Vowel category dependence of the relationship between palate height, tongue height, and oral area

Mark Hasegawa-Johnson, Shamala Pizza, Abeer Alwan, Jul Setsu Cha, Katherine Haker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article evaluates intertalker variance of oral area, logarithm of the oral area, tongue height, and formant frequencies as a function of vowel category. The data consist of coronal magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) sequences and acoustic recordings of 5 talkers, each producing 11 different vowels. Tongue height (left, right, and midsagittal), palate height, and oral area were measured in 3 coronal sections anterior to the oropharyngeal bend and were subjected to multivariate analysis of variance, variance ratio analysis, and regression analysis. The primary finding of this article is that oral area (between palate and tongue) showed less intertalker variance during production of vowels with an oral place of articulation (palatal and velar vowels) than during production of vowels with a uvular or pharyngeal place of articulation. Although oral area variance is place dependent, percentage variance (log area variance) is not place dependent. Midsagittal tongue height in the molar region was positively correlated with palate height during production of palatal vowels, but not during production of nonpalatal vowels. Taken together, these results suggest that small oral areas are characterized by relatively talker-independent vowel targets and that meeting these talker-independent targets is important enough that each talker adjusts his or her own tongue height to compensate for talker-dependent differences in constriction anatomy. Computer simulation results are presented to demonstrate that these results may be explained by an acoustic control strategy: When talkers with very different anatomical characteristics try to match talker-independent formant targets, the resulting area variances are minimized near the primary vocal tract constriction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)738-753
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2003


  • Articulation
  • Oral cavity
  • Physiologic acoustics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Speech and Hearing


Dive into the research topics of 'Vowel category dependence of the relationship between palate height, tongue height, and oral area'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this